Braves pencil in Justin Upton as No. 3 hitter

The SportsXchange

With Chipper Jones' uniform No. 10 likely to join the former third baseman in retirement, Justin Upton will switch to No. 8 in Atlanta. However, the newest Brave likely will inherit the future Hall of Famer's one-time slot in the batting order.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez has already penciled in the left fielder as his No. 3 hitter, and the Braves go into spring training excited about what the revamped offense -- with Justin joining brother B.J. Upton -- can produce in 2013.

Andrelton Simmons, who has played just 49 major league games, may be a question mark at the leadoff spot. However, the rest of the lineup is strong from top to bottom, especially if catcher Brian McCann can bounce back fully after shoulder surgery.

Right fielder Jason Heyward likely will hit second, and Gonzalez hopes that McCann will be able to regain the cleanup spot. Center fielder B.J. Upton would hit fifth ahead of first baseman Freddie Freeman as the Braves continue to split right- and left-handed hitters.

Second baseman Dan Uggla could hit seventh, and the third baseman -- either Chris Johnson or Juan Francisco -- eighth.

That's a lineup with plenty of speed at the top and plenty of power throughout. The Braves feel that they will have the offense to match their strong pitching.

Of course, the Uptons will have to live up to their vast potential and justify the money the Braves will be paying them. B.J. Upton, 28, got a five-year, $85.25 million deal to leave the Rays as a free agent. Justin Upton, 25, will get $38.5 million over three seasons after being acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-player deal.

That means the Braves will have $114.75 million tied up in the Uptons. General manager Frank Wren isn't worried about the brothers justifying it.

"We think it gives us one of the most dynamic outfields in baseball," Wren said of getting a second Upton. "I think we have a much-improved offense over a year ago."

When the Braves signed B.J., he said it was his dream to one day play with his younger brother. They did in high school, but Justin was just a freshman when B.J. was a senior.

Now they are an equal footing, and the sibling rivalry could intensify. The Braves hope they will push each other.

"I think we will bring some energy to the field," Justin said at his introductory news conference in Atlanta on Jan. 29. "We're going to butt heads some times. ... It'll be fun. There will be a certain fire."
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